Open vs. Traditional Floor Plans: Choosing the Best Layout

June 25, 2024



Hannah Haber

Open floor plans have reigned supreme for years, touting a sense of spaciousness, fluidity, and connection. But lately, the internet has been buzzing with a surprising trend—people yearning for a return to traditional floor plans with separate rooms. Is the open concept craze finally cooling down? Let’s dive into the debate and explore the characteristics of each style to help you decide which layout best suits your lifestyle.

What Separates Open Floor Plans from the Traditional?

The first floor of the ID House. Photos by Wahana Architects.
Photo by Wahana Architects

An open floor plan is a home design concept that minimizes the use of walls and partitions to create large, interconnected living spaces. It typically merges areas like the kitchen, living, and dining room into one seamless space. 

As this layout reduces or eliminates separate rooms with distinct functions, the furniture placement and other design elements define different areas within the open space. This increases the flow of light and sightlines into the home, making it more spacious and flexible. 

Open Floor Plan vs. Traditional Concept: Choosing the Best Layout.
Photo from Niveditaa Gupta

On the other hand, a traditional floor plan greatly emphasized walls and partitions. Each room has its own walls and doorways, creating clear boundaries between spaces. Along with defining rooms, it also includes hallways and corridors to provide dedicated passageways throughout the home.

Furthermore, this separation helps control sound from traveling throughout the house, offering more privacy for activities happening in different rooms.

Are Open Floor Plans Still a Thing?

Open Floor Plan vs. Traditional Concept: Choosing the Best Layout.
Image by KIE©

Open floor plans can be traced back to the Arts and Crafts movement in the early 20th century. They also carry influences from Frank Lloyd Wright’s open living area designs that blurred the lines between rooms. This popularity continued until the latter half of the 20th century and into the 21st.

Despite its long history, there’s been a growing online conversation in recent years about the drawbacks of open floor plans. One downside of this layout is its design limitations. 

According to IDr. Jessica Helgerson, taking out too many walls and eliminating the distinction of rooms have “ruined” interiors. She explained that as two rooms become more adjacent, it becomes more difficult to separate them through design. 

Some also argue that open floor plans are deathtraps, particularly in case of fire. In a study done by Underwriters Laboratories, they found that traditional floor plans with separate rooms may offer more time for escape in a fire. In their estimate, these layouts potentially provide up to thirty minutes before flashover occurs. Contrarily, open floor plan homes may see flashovers in less than five minutes, leaving shorter time for escape.

Another threat to open floor plans is the rise of hygge living. This Danish philosophy emphasizes coziness and creating defined spaces for relaxation. And since the pandemic lockdowns forced many people to spend more time at home, the need for separated areas became even more crucial. As a result, there’s now a growing demand to making traditional floor plans mainstream again. 

Knowing the Right Layout for You

Choosing between an open floor plan and a traditional layout all boils down to your lifestyle, needs, and preferences. To help you decide, here are some of the considerations you should take into account. 

Open Floor Plan vs. Traditional Concept: Choosing the Best Layout.

Open floor plans are ideal when:

You value togetherness and interaction. Since it promotes a sense of connection between living areas, this layout makes it easier to socialize and keep an eye on family members. 

You prioritize spaciousness and light. Open floor plans create a feeling of airiness and allow natural and installed lighting to penetrate deeper into the home.

You entertain frequently. This also allows for easy flow of guests, foot traffic, and conversation throughout the connected areas.

You prefer a cohesive design. As there are fewer to no partitions, this works well when adopting a uniform design throughout your home. 

Photo credits to Hiroyuki Oki

Conversely, traditional floor plans are better if:

You value privacy and noise control. Walls and doors act like solid filters for noise, creating pockets of quiet within the home. This ensures everyone in the house can enjoy their activities without disturbing others.

You have concerns about temperature control. Separate rooms allow for cheaper and more targeted heating and cooling compared to a large open space.

You have a large family or need dedicated workspaces. Traditional floor plans can provide quiet areas for studying, working from home, or simply enjoying some personal time. This also helps contain mess, especially if someone is working on a project or has hobbies that generate clutter. Aside from keeping the main living areas tidy, it’s additionally beneficial for larger families where there’s always something going on.

While the online conversation about open floor plans has shifted, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to ditch them altogether. By putting your lifestyle and needs first, you’ll be well-equipped to choose the floor plan that best fosters comfort and functionality in your home. So, don’t be afraid to embrace open space if it suits you, or opt for the privacy and defined areas that traditional layouts offer. After all, the rise of alternative viewpoints is a healthy reminder to consider your own comfort and not just the latest trends.

Read more: The Big Light Debate: Choosing Between Overhead Lighting and Lamps

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